Today was a great day. I flew a plane!
Ok, not an actual plane, I’d booked a session in a simulator next to Glasgow Airport. For those who don’t know I am a recovering flying phobic. A couple of years ago I decided to do something about it and went on Virgin’s ‘Flying without Fear’ course. It was quite an eventful day but one I credit with literally putting a rocket up me to overcome my fear.
Now of course my fear of flying was merely a symptom. The underlying cause was a crappy anxiety gene that manifested itself in panic attacks. While you can’t do much about how you’re made up you can modify how things are expressed. What helped in my case was that I also inherited a ‘don’t tell me I can’t do that’ gene. Although my family will often say it’s just sheer bloody mindedness. Whatever you call it it’s something that has got me where I am today and in particular into the seat of a Boeing 737 simulator.
I had decided after my exhilarating flight over Birmingham I would sign up for flying lessons. Here’s the thing about phobias though, they don’t just go away overnight. The control freak in me was only happy with learning to fly a big jet engine and by the way, only on sunny days with no wind.
As it turns out that’s not really something that we have in Scotland. Oh, we do have the planes, just not the weather. Apparently you also can’t just pitch up and ask for a flying lesson. Something about training, cost, blah, blah, blah. Whatever……
So I started doing some research. I discovered most people start with small planes. Tiny. Little. Two seater planes. No, not for me thanks very much!
To be honest I wasn’t entirely sure why I had this slight obsession about learning to fly. A fair amount had happened since the course reinforcing just how far I’d come. I’d flown my first solo transatlantic flight to Nashville. I’d dealt with a medical emergency on a flight back from Gran Canaria. First time I’d cannulated someone and given IV opiates at 30,000 feet.
Mostly it was that I’d started enjoying the whole flying experience. There is a whole other world up above the clouds. The views, the stillness. It’s just beautiful.
So back to my flying simulation – with all this positive affirmation in my head I thought it would be a breeze. What I didn’t expect was the old familiar anxiety feelings to resurface. So much so I nearly didn’t go. Ridiculous really!
However I applied the same strategy as I do when on an actual plane – I told them I had until recently had a fear of flying. It seems one of their instructors also had this and now teaches people how to fly.
We started with a short talk on the principals of flying. I was then given the option of going in the 737 or being taught in the simulator for little planes.
I have to say the flight deck of a 737 is quite impressive. So many buttons and dials. I decided however I wanted to fly properly so we headed back to the smaller one.
I know! I was as surprised when I said I’d prefer the two seater plane.
As I sat on the simulated runway of Glasgow Airport I could not only hear the noise of real life planes landing but feel it too. It only added to the experience. I may’ve been feeling teeny tiny but I was raring to go!
The next hour was spent flying around Loch Lomond, practicing banking, going up and down. I took off (quite easy) and landed (not so easy) a few times. To make it more interesting at the end wind, rain and low cloud cover was added. I managed to land but forgot to use the peddles to steer once I’d got on the ground. It finished with a rather flamboyant 360 spin. I still managed to walk out the simulator in one piece though.
Whatever your particular phobia is I would urge you to push yourself to overcome it. There is a world of opportunities out there if you can. For me, it’s been about coming out my comfort zone and into the Danger Zone……